PUCL Bulletin, June 2001

A Weapon for Suppressing Dissent

By Frank Morales

(The following article is a departure from our general policy of confining to affairs relating to India. We are publishing this article received by email through our website because of the tremendous possibilities of the use of this new so-called "non-lethal weapon, which uses electro magnetic energy to cause a burning sensation on the skin", for suppressing protests and demonstrations. Besides the fact that it is " the biggest breakthrough in weapons technology since the atomic bomb, it can be used to engage a crowd directing two-second burst of energy without risk of being overcome by the mob".) -- General Secretary

The Marine Corps, USA, is on the verge of unveiling perhaps the biggest breakthrough in weapons technology since the atomic bomb: a non-lethal weapon that fires directed energy at human targets."

"I have nothing to hide. This is a good news story. Our American public needs to understand that we have done our homework." - Col. George Fenton, Director, Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, Department of Defense Marine Corps Times, March 5, 2001. In a neatly calculated "unveiling" of weapons designed for social control, for use against civilians and the suppression of dissent, the Pentagon has gone "transparent" with the latest in electronic weapons technology which targets people. At a selective press briefing for congressional and military leaders this past March 1st, Pentagon officials stated they were "developing a new non-lethal weapon which uses electromagnetic energy to cause a burning sensation on the skin" (Reuters, 3/1/01). The biggest breakthrough in weapons technology since the atomic bomb" is none other than the so-called "Vehicle-Mounted Active Denial System" or VMADS. According to the March 5th issue of the Marine Corps Times, (cited above) in an article entitled, "The People Zapper: This new secret weapon doesn't kill, but it sure does burn", the "VMADS system is the first non-lethal, directed energy weapon designed specifically for use against humans." The weapon "focuses energy into a beam of micro millimeter waves designed to stop an individual in his tracks." Powered by electricity, it would ultimately "be powered by the modified Humvee on which it would be mounted."

According to the Marine Corps Times report, the projected energy "which falls near microwaves on the electromagnetic spectrum, causes the moisture in a person's skin to heat up rapidly, creating a burning sensation, similar to a hot light bulb pressed against one's flesh." The microwaves, "whose exact length, frequency and amplitude are classified, cause water molecules in the skin cells to vibrate." Presumably, "when used as directed - that is, briefly - the weapon causes no long-term problems". Meanwhile, "the amount of time the weapon must be trained on an individual to cause permanent damage or death is classified." Studies of long-term effects of "the VMADS system" have been completed, according to the report, but "the findings have not been released publicly." It should be noted that the Joint Chiefs of Staff major policy directive in the area of non-lethal weapons, DoD Directive 3000, which is currently under revision, calls for these weapons to have a built-in "rheostatic" (ie. "tunable") capability.

The Marine report states that, "the need for a non-lethal means for stopping an aggressor is a direct response to today's world of unknown enemies & where small numbers of troops find themselves facing off against large crowds of civilians." And while "weapons that fire lasers, electricity and sound waves have been in development for years", "not since the advent of gun-powder and the splitting of the atom have armies seen such a leap in technology." The range of the electromagnetic weapon "remains classified" but project officials "expect it will exceed 750 meters" (2250') allowing the Marines to "engage a crowd from afar, directing two-second bursts of energy without risk of being overcome by the mob." The "mob", the target of the directed beam, cooking in 130 degree heat, "would immediately experience intense pain, causing confusion and driving the crowd to disperse." And while "the intention is not to burn the skin", "those hit by the beam begin to feel intense heat" during "potential applications" which include "urban operations." And finally, while "the Defense Department has spent nearly $40 million over ten years to develop the technology...budget redirections from last year...show another $26 million could be needed for development over the next five years." The primary contractor for the current VMADS $16 million project is Raytheon Missile Systems.

Deeper Unveiling turns out that while the Marines expect to be microwaving people, it was the Air Force that developed the "technology" in the first place. On February 22, 2001 the United States Air Force Research Laboratory, located at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, issued it's own news release announcing that "a breakthrough technology designed to project an energy beam that drives away adversaries without injuring them, is now undergoing advanced testing." (2) According to the Air Force, the projected energy "beam" travels "at the speed of light" and penetrates "1/64 of a inch into the skin", rapidly heating up the skin's surface, causing the "subject", within seconds, to "feel pain that stops when the transmitter is shut off or when the subject moves out of the beam." According to the news release, the weapon was developed by two Air Force Research Laboratory teams: one from it's Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland, the other from it's Human Effectiveness Directorate, located at Brooks Air Force Base, Texas. The learned team leaders, Lt. Col. Chuck Beason and Dr. Kirk Hackett noted, in reference to the new EM weapon, that "the effect exploits a natural defense mechanism - pain - that has evolved to protect the human body from damage."

The Air Force Research Laboratory - Directed Energy Directorate, in addition to developing "high powered electromagnetic weapons and countermeasures" also develops "moderate and high power laser devices" In fact, recently (2/212/01), the public affairs office of the Airborne Laser System Program Office, located at Kirtland, AFB, announced that "Lockheed Martin Space Systems will open an $8 million, 16,000 square-foot optical test center & designed to analyze the beam guidance system for the U.S. Air Force's Airborne Laser, the world's first combat aircraft armed with a directed energy weapon." Meanwhile, the Space Vehicles Directorate - Air Force Research Laboratory, "develops technologies to support evolving war fighter requirements to control and exploit space." This past November, Kirtland AFB was the sight of the 3rd Annual Directed Energy Symposium entitled, Directed Energy for the 21st Century, presented by the Directed Energy Professional Association, in cooperation with the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The VMADS system is currently being tested in field conditions by the Air Force at Kirtland, AFB. At the New Mexico site, "they are using a transmitter that sends a narrow beam of energy to a test subject hundreds of yards away." It is reassuring to note that "all testing is being conducted with strict observance of the procedures, laws and regulations governing animal and human experimentation".

In addition, "the tests have been reviewed and approved by the Air Force Surgeon General's Office and are conducted by the Air Force Research Laboratory's Human Effectiveness Directorate." Finally, "although testing is expected to continue in this summer (2001), officials have begun examining the technology for use on a vehicle-mounted version. Future versions might also be used onboard planes and ships." Col. George Fenton, director of the US Marine operated NLW program firmly believes in the safety of this "revolutionary force protection technology." He recently stated that "humans have been exposed more than 6,000 times in testing, all inside the laboratory (and that) no long term effects have been detected." Given that track record, Fenton believes that "the technology could move into the acquisition phase of making a prototype as soon as this summer (2001), when the project would be taken over by the Air Force's Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., near Boston." Finally, on-cue the New York Times joined in on the "unveiling", heralding "what some military officials hope will become the rubber bullet of the 21st century: a weapon that uses electromagnetic waves to disperse crowds without killing, maiming or, military officials say, even injuring anyone slightly."

Not even slightly! After all, notes the Times, they are only "intended to influence motivational behavior." According to free lance writer/researcher David Guyatt, "less than lethal anti-personnel weapons, especially some classes of EM weapons that are viewed as having a capability to remotely modify behavior or attack higher functions, are seen in some influential quarters as being the ideal remedy for future domestic disturbances...", wherein, the forces of repression will target the opposition, "armed with innovative technological weapons that do not necessarily kill but which render disenfranchised segments of society physically inactive, emotionally stupefied and incapable of meaningful thought".

Sound farfetched? Back in 1986, Marine Corps Captain Paul E. Tyler, author of an influential study entitled, "The Electromagnetic Spectrum in Low-Intensity Conflict" was already making the point that "the potential applications of artificial electromagnetic fields are wide ranging and can be used in many military or quasi - military situations" including "crowd control". At that time he pointed out that although scientists hadn't identified electromagnetism for what it really was until the eighteenth century, "the results of many studies that have been published in the last few years indicate that specific biological effects can be achieved by controlling the various parameters of the electromagnetic (EM) field." And further, "many of the clinical effects of electromagnetic radiation (have) been reported in the literature to induce or enhance the following effects (including) electro anaesthesia & behaviour modification in animals, altered electroencephalograms in animals and humans, altered brain morphology in animals, altered firing of neuronal cells."

According to Capt. Tyler, "a 1982 Air Force review of biotechnology had this to say: Currently available data allow the projection that specially generated radio frequency radiation (RFR) fields may pose powerful and revolutionary antipersonnel military threats. Electroshock therapy indicates the ability of induced electric current to completely interrupt mental functioning for short periods of time, to obtain cognition for longer periods and to restructure emotional response over prolonged intervals." Further, "experience with electroshock therapy, RFR experiments and the increasing understanding of the brain as an electrically mediated organ suggested the serious probability that impressed electromagnetic fields can be disruptive to purposeful behaviour and may be capable of directing and or interrogating such behaviour", while "the passage of approximately 100 mill amperes through the myocardium can lead to cardiac standstill and death, again pointing to a speed-of-light weapons effect."

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